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JAZZ REVIEWS : Winston Evokes Feelings of Deja Vu at Royce Hall

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About halfway through George Winston’s concert at Royce Hall on Saturday night, a vast, wearisome lethargy began to engulf this listener. The suspicion immediately arose that the UCLA Psychology Department might be concocting some particularly nefarious form of sleep therapy.

But, no, there was no sign of external manipulation. Winston was doing it all by himself. Returning to the same venue with virtually the same program he performed last year, the pianist seemed to have evolved in verbosity, if not in content.

Winston has often spoken of the influence Steve Reich has had on his playing, and it was more evident than usual Saturday night, especially in such seasonal selections as “Colors,” “Leaves” and “Blossoms and Meadows.” Building up long, long repetitions, with little timbrel or rhythmic change, Winston appeared intent upon producing a continuity of trance-like dream-evoking effects. If so, he was remarkably successful in his task.

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Winston was far more musically effective when he shifted into the explosive New Orleans-style rhythms of “Summer,” the stride-based energies of “Cat and Mouse” and a delightful tribute to Vince Guaraldi’s “Charlie Brown” music.

Equally appealing was an evening-closing encore in which he played a strikingly well-executed Hawaiian slack-key guitar piece.

Clearly, Winston can be a thoroughly entrancing musical performer without the benefit of all the tonal soporifics. But he needs to enliven his program with more new material, and to rely less on his increasingly dated-sounding New Age meanderings.

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